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Failed Reconstruction

Posts: 6
Joined: Mar 2001

Hello, this is Sharon from Louisiana. Has anyone out there gone through breast reconstruction, only to have it fail? On August 15 I had a muscle taken from my back and transfered to my chest, at which time they put in a tissue expander. Things seemed to be going along ok for about three weeks. Then the incesion started to breakdown (this is what the doctor called it)the incesion had what looked to me like a scab. The doctor gave me a special sulation and told me to keep it moist. I did this for about two weeks, then went back to the doctor for a check up. At this check up the doctor cut the incesion open and had me to pack it with a different type of sulation for another two weeks. When I went back for my check up it was so inflamed that I had to have emergency surgery to remove the tissue expander. My doctor told me that it was becasue I smoked (I was down to one cigerette per day). He said that the incesion could not heal due to the nicotine. I still have the muscle which was transfered to my chest and once they took out the expander, the incesion has healed. Now I have are a lot more scars. Wish I would have left well enough alone.

Just wanted to know if anyone else has experienced anything like this!
Love to all..............Sharon

Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Sharon,

This is Kathy from Virginia. I didn't have the same situation you described, but I did have failed reconstruction. I had to have surgery every 6 months for 3 years -- we had to redo the whole thing -- tissue expander, etc. three times. The good news is the third time was the charm. Hang in there. I know you are disappointed, but things will get better. You have time to let your body heal and try again. Stay positive and pray. My plastic surgeon told me I encapsulated (formed too much scar tissue) because I did too much right away the first time. Lifting, vacumming, etc. I don't beleieve that, but they have to tell you something!! I was disappointed, but I didn't give up. I was determined it was going to work. It did and it will for you. I'll keep you in my prayers. Keep the faith. I hope you can kick that one last cigarette.

God Bless you,


lauramarie's picture
Posts: 39
Joined: May 2001

Hello Sharon,

Where in Louisiana are you? I am also in Louisiana. Did your doctor also tell you to stop all asprin products? Have you considerd tram flap or free flap reconstruction?

Posts: 6
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Laura,
I'm from a town called New Iberia, it's close to Lafayette, Louisiana. Where are you from? Yes, my doctor did tell me not to take asprin. He also told me that I would not be a good candiate for any of the other types of flap procedures. He said that the back muscle was the best muscle to use. I had originally wanted him to take the muscle from my stomach area, but he said that since I smoked that this procedure was out of the question. Did you have reconstruction? If so how did it go?
Thanks for responding, hope to hear from you soon.
Love to all..........Sharon

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Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2003

Miki, from Illinois. I too have had a failed expander/implant reconstruction (after mastectomy), due to radiation after a lumpectomy 4 years prior. The radiated skin simply could not take all that stretching. So if you are in this situation and had a mastectomy with prior radiation, you should choose one of the Flap reconstruction options. I am considering Free Flap (from the abdomen) and want to know if anyone has had this done with Microsurgery, and if so, who is your doctor?

jk1952's picture
Posts: 613
Joined: May 2009

I had a bilateral mastectomy and the free flap/DIEP reconstruction nine years after having radiation on one of my breasts. Six months later, I am very glad that I had it done. There had been damage to the blood supply caused by the radiation, but fortunately, they were able to reconnect the blood supply to the tissue taken from my abdomen. My doctor is in Syracuse, NY, and he is booked solid. I had to wait over a month for a consultation. But, the plastic surgeon is definitely the key to a successful reconstruction.

Hope you can find a doctor in your area who has experience with this surgery.


cats_toy's picture
Posts: 1462
Joined: Feb 2009

Hi MikiWhite, I did have the free flap, no expanders needed as they use the tummy fat to fill out the breast. Two surgeons were there doing the microsurgery part of it. My docs are in Pasadena, California, and came highly recommended. My only real alternative was the "free" flap for a few reasons, one being the highly radiated skin could not stretch.
Mine was just done two months ago, August 13, and I am healing well.
Good luck

DianeBC's picture
Posts: 3886
Joined: Jun 2009

So, you are healing well Cat? You haven't posted much on here about your surgery. I was hoping that everything was going well for you.

Hugs, Diane ♥

cats_toy's picture
Posts: 1462
Joined: Feb 2009

I guess I can say yes, there is an area that is not healing, and they will go in a fix it, but otherwise, yes. I figure I won't sweat the small stuff. They will fix it when the next phase of the reconstruction gets done, which is now tentatively set for November 12.
Thanks for asking! I haven't been able to access the boards much lately, but am still here pulling for everyone. Didn't notice I replied to such an old post. Funny how one pops up like this.

Posts: 7
Joined: Nov 2008

This is Denise from Arizona. I have had a couple of tries for reconstruction which failed. I had an expander put in and filled, but my skin was red and irriated. When I had the surgery to put in silicone, it leaked in less than 3 weeks. How did I know? It floated from under the pectoral muscle to above the mastectomy scar, disolved the skin and stitches, and slid down my stomach during a shower. I put it in a bag and went to my plastic surgeon appointment. He explanted it in the office because it was almost out anyway. He offered a latissimus dorsi flap. I accepted. Less than a month after that I contracted hospital acquired MRSA. It ate away part of my pectoral muscle, and the expander was removed. I now have ongoing back and shoulder problems. Other pain areas are the sternum and rib cage. I have decided I don't care for more surgery. I can't buy a mastectomy bra to fit, because I have no projection in the reduced breast. I did what I did for myself, I don't regret it, but I don't like what I am left with. I fear dating, I don't like showing my scar in a doctor's office. I am embarassed and sad.

Posts: 1
Joined: Nov 2009

Denise ... this is Susan from Illinois. Please know that, while the embarrassment and sadness does pass, it takes time. Each of us goes thru reconstruction for our own personal needs. If the procedure(s) fail, we end up feeling vain, foolish, and stupid that we put ourselves and our cargivers thru the whole process.

I went thru the same problems following bilateral mastectomy in September of 2001. The first reconstruction was immediate and used my own tissue. I tried three times to reconstruct - which all met with failure. And I too have problems with ongoing back shoulder, sternum and rib cage pain.

I've been cancer free for 7 years. Yeah! But I'm now in intensive physical therapy to deal with the connective tissue problems (which cause the back, shoulder, sternum and rib cage pain). Physical therapy has come such a long way in the last seven years!

As for dating ... there are actually some very good men out there. Please walk honestly and proud. The scars are battle scars. You are the victor! While I still miss my breasts at times, I'm alive.

nancyrsmith's picture
Posts: 8
Joined: Aug 2010

Hi Denise, this is Nancy from Arizona. I have had several failed tissue expander surgeries. My skin after radiation does not want to heal. I am now researching my options and most surgeons I have talk to say that the Lat flap procedure is my best choice. I was wondering if you could tell me who your plastic surgeon was and which hospital it was that you contracted the MRSA? I am very nervous and I want to make the right decisions about the surgeon, hospital and procedure.

Thank you,

RE's picture
Posts: 4644
Joined: Feb 2004

Hello Sharon,

My sister had this done to her. She had bc twice and decided to have reconstruction, after research she went with the same one as you did. She had the muscle removed from her back and placed in her chest to create new breasts for her. Because she had radiation on both sides she had to have expanders put in for 6 months prior to the operation to move the muscle from the back to the front. Because of the rads she did not expand very much and decided to go a smaller size. She too was a smoker (just a little but she did smoke) she ended up not healing well and getting infected. In the end they had to have both sides completely removed and she was in the hospital for a week and then placed on meds for several more weeks. Eventually she went back and had it all redone and was satisfied with the results she got and she did not get another infection.

Hope this has helped.


Noel's picture
Posts: 3100
Joined: Apr 2009

Sorry guys, I don't know if Sharon or Miki will reply. Their original post was in 2001.

♥ Noel

RE's picture
Posts: 4644
Joined: Feb 2004

Thanks Noel, I often don't look at the dates, wonder how it ended up here so many years later. Hope they had a good resolution to their problems.


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